January 03, 2006

Winter Olympic Worldlines

I've been meaning to write some more about athlete protest, so naturally I was pretty interested in stories coming out of Italy about the ongoing struggle between protesters and police:

Environmentalists and residents have been angered by plans to build the controversial rail link [tunnel through the Italian Alps], which is near many of the venues of the winter games. Last Thursday police in riot gear fired teargas at tens of thousands of protesters who had used a public holiday to demonstrate against the project. More than 20 people were treated in hospital.

The protests are centred in the Val di Susa area near Turin, which hosts the venues for 80% of the Olympic events. Earlier (and distinctly anti-protester) reports had hinted that the Games themselves might be in jeopardy:

Signor Castellani, the Italian Olympic chief, noted that the Games were barely 60 days away, and he told Corriere della Sera: "I am very worried." He said that Val di Susa was under siege, with television images of the clashes broadcast around the world, and added: "It would take only a handful of violent protesters to disrupt the Games." Some town mayors in Val di Susa were already writing the Games off, "and I can understand that." Sergio Chiamparino, the Mayor of Turin, said: "We are dealing with a serious emergency that is becoming more dramatic by the minute."

The rail tunnel project is not directly linked to the 2006 Games, but of course everything is connected in our modern world, and the impact of the protests will be greatly amplified because of the upcoming Olympics. Later in December, a small group of these protesters targeted the Winter Olympics more explicitly, succeeding in delaying the Olympic torch relay in Genoa.

So I was trying to follow this story — which has not been very widely reported in the North American press — on the internet when things took a very weird detour. One of my Google RSS feeds turned up three posts to a bulletin board called Time Travel Portal. The Times story above is quoted to start the thread, with the one-line postscript "So now I gotta ask, MadIce, Jorune and co. IS the 'titor is BS' party still on?" Further down the thread comes the question, "If the olympics go as planned... does this finally mean that john titor fooled us all????"

Well, I would say that John Titor fooled an awful lot of people!

John Titor was the name of a purported time traveller from the year 2036. He posted on several time travel-related Internet bulletin boards during 2000/2001, making many vague, but seemingly falsifiable, predictions about events in the near future and giving an account of his supposed native time period. Whether or not John Titor was a hoax is a topic of controversy on web-based paranormal discussion boards.

I found the full story quite fascinating, and the Wikipedia article linked above has a good description of Titor's "history." For a less, um, neutral account you could try JohnTitor.com. Titor's many predictions include … well, that's not quite right, if he was from the future then it wasn't really a prediction … but he recounted that there were no Olympics after 2004. So many of the people who want to debunk John Titor are looking to the Torino Olympics as proof positive that his story was nothing but a hoax.

Personally, I don't think I need to wait that long.

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